Habitat for Humanity building home for Park Rapids family

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Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity is preparing to build its next home in the Park Rapids area.

They hope to break ground yet this November on Third Street, a few blocks from the fairgrounds.

The home is for April Bower and her two teenage daughters.

"Everything is ready: the lot, building plans and workers," said Duane Gebhard, chair of the Hubbard County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. "Our only hurdle is that we must raise an additional $45,000 to cover the cost of building materials. We have already secured $25,000 in contributions from individuals, churches, and fundraising efforts over the past year, and we have commitments for in-kind contributions from services and from other Habitat resources to cover the actual cost of building our home, which will be about $110,000."

The Bowers have committed to providing 300 hours in "sweat equity" as the home is being constructed.

"The building of this home fits into our ongoing mission of providing homes for families in the Park Rapids area as part of Habitat For Humanity," Gebhard said.

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity (LAHFH) constructs homes in Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties and the city of Staples. Its headquarters are located in Brainerd.

The Bower home will be the 110th home built by LAHFH, noted Gebhard.

LAHFH accepts applications from families living in substandard housing that meet income guidelines. "Habitat Partner Families" must demonstrate a need for adequate housing and a willingness to provide 300 hours of labor.

Families buy the home from LAHFH, so they must also be able to pay the monthly, no-interest mortgage payment. Once moved in, they are responsible for maintenance and repairs of the house.

There's a misconception that Habitat homes are free, Gebhard noted.

"That's not the case," he said.

Bower's mortgage will pay for the price of the home over the years. Those monthly payments allow Habitat for Humanity to continue building homes.

Meet the Bowers

Bower is a single mom of two daughters. The eldest is 19, the youngest 13.

"I've been through some struggles in my past and overcame them. It's been a rough road, but it's been a blessing," she said.

She has lived in Park Rapids since she was 16. In fact, she helped build the family home.

"I currently live with my father," Bower said. "I've lived with him since my mother passed away two years ago. He was just lonely. He asked me if the girls and I would move in because the house was too quiet. I said, 'Absolutely.' I think my dad has moved on and it's time for me to move on."

The new Park Rapids Habitat home will have three bedrooms.

"We're just really looking forward to a house of our own. A bedroom of our own is huge for us. I haven't had my own bedroom in a long time," she said.

There's a basic design for Habitat homes, Gebhard explained, that is adapted to fit the lot.

"Our new house will also be a constant reminder for me that when you try hard, work hard and keep Jesus first, your life will be wonderful. We are truly blessed to be able to get this opportunity for our family," Bower said.

Swing a hammer and more

Everyone is welcome to help build the home. On-site training is offered.

A professional staff member oversees construction. Cement work, electrical, plumbing and landscaping is performed by subcontractors.

"But then as much of the building as possible is done with volunteers," Gebhard said.

"The more, the merrier," Bower said.

Swinging a hammer is not the only requirement for serving on a Habitat for Humanity build. Volunteers perform a variety of skilled and unskilled tasks, including framing, vinyl siding, sheetrocking, painting, flooring and installing trim. There's a need for office work, record keeping or financial contributions.

In the past, local service groups or churches have contributed coffee or meals for the volunteers, Gebhard said.

Opportunities change day to day and occur both indoors or outdoors. Volunteers generally help four hours in the morning or afternoon.

"We are reaching out to those in our area who may be able to help," said Gebhard.

The Bowers, along with their family members and friends, will work alongside volunteers.

"I've definitely rounded up some crews," Bower said.

Construction typically takes four to five weeks.

To volunteer, call 218-828-8517. He will be onsite to teach new skills or put someone's expertise to best use.

Joining the local chapter

The Hubbard County chapter currently has about eight or nine members. More are welcome. They meet monthly.

"We'd love to have more members, especially younger members," Gebhard said.

He's been involved with Habitat for Humanity for at least 15 years.

The chapter is largely responsible for fundraising and purchasing the lots.

"For example, we have a lot in Akeley where we want to do a build there. We're trying to find a lot in Nevis right now," he said.

To join the local chapter, contact Gebhard at 732-5908.